This weekend, specifically Sunday, was just a really really really good time. Saturday wasn’t super exciting because I worked all day, but I did get to go play with my favorite fat hunter at the barn while his mommy was out of town. I wasn’t planning to go to the barn originally, so Val got a flat ride from a friend, which still made my evening a lot less complicated.
Sunday started with brunch at our favorite place (Snooze, for the record) with some friends who recently moved to Austin, and the only bummer was no mimosas before 10 on Sundays because Texas liquor laws are weird. After stuffing myself with gingerbread french toast, we headed down the street to check out a camera store I hadn’t yet had the chance to explore, only to find that they didn’t open until noon, and it was only 10:30.
Instead, we headed home and I got myself ready for the barn, planning for a pretty easy hack, since the day after someone else rides Val is usually a little frazzled. On the way though, we stopped by a different camera store, because I had it in my head that I reeaally needed a new camera body and lens. But of course, we arrived at 12:30, and they opened at 1. This happens to me a lot actually. But. They had a fabulous deal on a camera I really wanted, so I waited.
And by 1:30 I said goodbye to my d3300, and hello to my super huge upgrade in the form of a d800. Holy cow I’m in love. Now I need to schedule more shoots to pay it off…
With my new camera in tow, J drove to the barn while I speed read the manual and set everything up.
In keeping with the fabulous weekend trend, I just happened to get on Val right when the lesson I would normally be in was starting. I was supposed to be at work, so my trainer hadn’t scheduled me, but when Val warmed up really great (and not at all frazzled), she let me hop in anyway, and I’m so glad I did!
He was really just so on it. He’s always been a forward ride and quick around a course, but lately, he’s felt really bold to the fences. After a few rides where it really felt like his confidence was a little shaken, this has been a nice development. I think the biggest factor here has been our field work, where I really let him open up and then he’s more willing to allow me to take up a feel and have better control. In the past he’s been so reactive to my hand but also a bit of a runaway, and that a little hard to work with.
So bold, without running., and let me hold him to the base nicely while still carrying a good canter!
While I do my best to ride off of seat and leg, sometimes you just need a big half halt or an extra tug to make it around a sharp turn, and I’ve always had to be really careful with how I do that so that we don’t get stuck bouncing up and down. But my last few jump schools, he’s been forward in a way that’s useful, and really pushing from behind rather than pulling himself along. Even when he’s a little upside down on course, he’s still carrying a powerful canter and really locking on to the jump with a plan, rather than just always wanting to attack it and often run past it.
Even with our “scary” jump he definitely peeked hard over it the first time, but was otherwise very brave and carried me right to it every time, and just felt so game about all of the bigger fences, despite not doing bigger course work in quite a while.
Aside from my horse just being a rock star and finally feeling like he really, truly, gets it, I was pretty happy with myself for making generally good decisions. There wasn’t a single distance where it was a little long and I abandoned my horse at the base, and even when we were tight, we were tight on purpose, because I chose the distance from several strides back, and as a result, my horse was still able to get his shoulders up and out of the way.
The cherry on top of such a fantastic day, was an at liberty shoot I did with the new gear , which I’m almost done processing, and super pleased with. When I’m finished, I will definitely share a few with you all, whether or not you actually wanted to see them!
(Watch to the end to see me almost jump an extra jump and be reminded of why I should sit up for the turns.)
I’m really excited to see how our course work improves after this break-through of sorts. He’s definitely been one that needs a little extra time to figure this stuff out, but every time something really clicks for him, we make huge progress. And the distinction between forward and bold is going to be really important for us as the jumps go up. Confidence is key.